An open letter to couples in the first year of their serious relationship
|"Are you ready for the spin cycle, Larry?" "Nope. Are you?"|
Photo by Fabrizio Lonzini, Flickr
Dear committed couples who have been together one year or less,
Congratulations! After much searching and wondering and wringing of hands, you have found someone whom you are 99.9% certain you want to spend the rest of your life with. I applaud you for this achievement; it is 50% attributable to your hope, optimism, and smashing good looks, and 50% to fortunate timing.
I can see Year One of your relationship unfolding thus: first a period of intense infatuation where everything you discover about this person is miraculous and enriching; then a period of necessary acclimation where you accommodate your daily rhythms to fit this new addition; and lastly, a period of escalated social activity where you rush to not only introduce your person to everyone you love, but also to meet all of the people your person loves.
It is this third stage I would like to warn you about today.
Perhaps "warn" is too strong a word for a time so precious and fleeting. Precious because you are watching people you'd give your life for all get to know one another and become friends in their own right. Fleeting because amid the scheduling and driving and cross-country flying, you -- the one more wrapped up in making it happen rather than the actual happening -- forget to pause and absorb what you hath so finely wrought.
Perhaps a better word would be "caution." Or "advise." Yes, let's go with advise, seeing as this entire letter is unsolicited anyway. I advise you, dear couples, as you traverse the period I like to refer to as Getting Everyone to Know Everyone as 'Now' Becomes 'Forever,' to stay mindful of three sizable demands on your time:
1. You must grow together as a couple.
You had the first few months all to yourselves -- week after week of happy daydreams and pajama snuggles and a romantic cocoon of your own devising. Prioritizing your relationship was easy because it was exciting and new. Once real life reasserts itself, however, you must put extra effort into carving out that special, undisturbed time where just the two of you can explore what you're creating together. Consider this time together sacred, because so are you to each other -- "dedicated, set apart, [and] exclusively appropriated" (in the words of the Oxford English Dictionary).
2. You must maintain your individual relationships as you also build new ones.
Friendship is a gift, one that nurtures and sustains you in different ways than a romantic relationship. Your friends were there with you when you were single, and they (hopefully) will continue to be with you as you add a partner to your life. But just as your romance requires investment, so do your friendships, be they old or new. Know it will not always go smoothly. You will run up against others' expectations or desires, and more often than not their reactions will be out of your control. What you can control, however, is your response. Continue to listen, acknowledge, and ask your friends to do the same for you. I promise, the new normal will emerge.
3. You must protect and foster what makes you, you.
No one can complete you. Not your partner. Not your family. Not your friends. They support and encourage and love your soul, but they do not embody it. It is up to you and you alone to tend that essential part of your being. Engage your interests, pursue your goals, deepen your connection to the world around you. Remember to be quiet occasionally, and sit by yourself. Such moments will keep you in touch with what makes your friends cherish you, what makes your lover want you, and what makes you feel exactly like you.
By now you're probably sweating and searching for
4. Go easy on yourself.
You are doing the best you humanly can. With that effort at the forefront, you will end up in the right place, even if there are some bumps and tears along the route. And no matter what else happens, remember that you're bound to learn much, much more about your partner, your friends, and yourself.
With love and admiration,
Prayer #289: Falling for You
God of hand-holding and hand-wringing,
Hold me in Yours as I figure out how to be present to myself as well as to those I love. Let me peek through Your fingers and spot when my people are striving to give to me as I am striving to give to them. Caress me when I am anxious; block me when I am injurious. And if You must let me go, let it be so I may continue falling in love -- with him, with her, with them -- all intoxicating reflections of You.